After a successful ‘proof of concept’ phase, the Royal Navy has awarded a 12-month contract to Airbus for the provision of satellite-based maritime surveillance services to the Joint Maritime Security Centre (JMSC).
Airbus satellites collect radar and photographic imagery covering UK waters but also areas around the world of strategic concern to the UK. The imagery is analysed in combination with AIS (Automatic Identification System) data to allow general monitoring and classification of specific ‘dark’ or uncooperative vessels. In addition, the Defence Site Monitoring service, uses algorithms / Artificial Intelligence applied to the Airbus optical imagery, for automated detection, recognition and identification of vessels.
Vessel Detection Reports can be delivered to JMSC in ’emergency mode’ for urgently required satellite tasking to track suspicious vessels or on a twice-daily basis for general monitoring. The service will also detail port activity and raises alerts in the event of abnormal activity. This intelligence is used to task Naval, Coastguard or Border Force assets to investigate and considerably reduces the number of ships and aircraft needed to monitor large areas.
The intelligence product from Airbus is one of the many sources of information provided to the JMSC which was established in 2019 as the UK coordination centre for maritime security. It incorporated the National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) founded in 2010, to fuse the intelligence, data and capabilities of the UK’s civilian and military maritime and law enforcement organisations. These include the RN, HM Coastguard, HM Revenue and Customs, and the National Crime Agency, The Border Force, the Marine Management Organisation and Marine Scotland. JMSC conducts 24/7 monitoring of the UK Exclusive Economic Zone and some areas worldwide.
The RN’s Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Programme provides an understanding of maritime activity to improve national and international maritime security. On a typical day up to 5,000 moving targets may be tracked underway in UK waters alone.